The World Health Organization (WHO) is requesting that $15 million be allocated to Cambodia from a new $100 million grant to stop the spread of resistance to the best available drugs currently used to fight malaria.
Eva Christophel, the WHO’s regional malaria adviser in Manila, said that the organization hoped to hear back from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is allocating the money, next month.
Global Fund’s $100 million has been allocated to Emergency Response to Artemisinin Resistance.
Health workers first detected resistance to Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) along the Thai-Cambodian border in 2007 and since then it has also been found in Vietnam and Burma.
The WHO’s new emergency response plan aims to keep the resistance from escaping the region and reaching Africa, where the vast majority of the more than 600,000 annual malaria deaths occur. Resistance to Artemisinin would be disastrous should it spread to Africa.
“Artemisinin is now the mainstay of the fight against malaria and we really do not have any other options…. There is really nothing else…much in the pipeline,” Ms. Christophel said of the gravity of the situation.
Ms. Christophel said the $15 million requested for Cambodia, if approved, would go in part toward moving the WHO’s regional office for fighting ACT resistance from Bangkok to Phnom Penh, focusing more on anti-malaria treatment for migrant workers and stepping up the search for people who carry resistant malaria strains without showing any symptoms of the disease.
“These are things on top of the normal [malaria] program that would need the extra money,” she said.
The WHO’s ACT hub office in Phnom Penh will include four additional WHO staff here and Ms. Christophel said the WHO hopes to have a director in place by January.
She declined to offer any more details on how the $15 million would be spent and referred questions to Char Meng Chour, director of the government’s National Malaria Center (CNM), who helped draw up the proposal. Mr. Meng Chour could not be reached and his deputy, Chea Nguon, declined to comment.
In November, the malaria center conceded that Global Fund grants would no longer be handed over directly to the CNM because of an investigation by the Fund that uncovered misspending of a previous grant.
As for who would be handling the Global Fund’s new grant to Cambodia, Ms. Christophel said, “I don’t think there is a decision made on that yet.”